Late Kapampangan artist Perfecto Sablan Mercado was already 25 years old when he switched from painting movie billboards to painting fine art. It was 1975.
It was in the first decade of the 21st century when Mercado produced his masterpieces, which art historian and museum curator Gari Apolonio labeled as “Dreamscapes” or works depicting “new representations of landscapes, mindscapes, or otherworldly vistas that are strangely familiar and deeply spiritual.”
This series of artworks is rich in colors, camouflages human figures, and connects the viewers to the “experience of the spiritual, the dream-like, and the magical.”
Mercado was on his way to reaching his artistic summit when he passed on due to a fatal stroke on March 30, 2011. Unfortunately, he did not see to fruition a landmark achievement in his career: his first solo exhibit at a major Philippine museum.
His son Arnold opened the Dreamscapes of Perfecto Mercado exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila in September 2011.
Immortalizing his legacy
To ensure Mercado's art will be forever remembered, Arnold commissioned Apolonio to “provide a truthful and accurate documentation” of the life of the artist and his “intriguing and breathtaking collection of work” that the public hardly saw when his father was still alive.
The 151-page coffee table book, entitled Dreamscapes: The Art of Perfecto Mercado, was launched on Aug. 25 at Gateway Gallery, the art museum of Araneta Center.
Apolonio, a UP College of Fine Arts alumnus, began working on the book in 2008.
The landmark book celebrates the “artistic achievements of a relatively unknown but relentless artist whose talent and body of work deserves exposure and recognition.”
“As the reader turns each page, Apolonio serves as a curator and exhibition guide, enlightening, imparting analysis, and drawing conclusions,” artist and art critic Cid Reyes wrote in the book’s foreword.
While the book aims to inspire artists to strive for excellence and have unwavering commitment to art, Dreamscapes is also a testament to the struggles and triumphs of Mercado whose artistry was nurtured by a deep faith in God and devotion to family.
The book is published by Arnold Mercado through AT Mercado Publishing with photographs taken by book designer Denes Dasco and additional images by award-winning photographer Ruston P. Banal, both UPCFA alumni.
The book launch coincides with the opening of a retrospective exhibit of Mercado’s “dream-making” that spanned 40 years.
Apolonio says Mercado is a dream-inspired artist who painted what he dreamt, much like the weavers of the T’boli community who made weaving patterns out of their dreams.
He says that Mercado’s “innovative and fresh idiom” in his works is valuable for its “distinct style, technical excellence and value-laden intent.”
“His large-scale Dreamscapes such as ‘The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil’ and ‘Third Heaven’ are breathtaking and hypnotic with their fine renderings of visual and actual textures, cleverly camouflaged faces and human forms, vividly soft colors and panoramic vistas,” says Apolonio.
For noted artist and art educator Buds Convocar, past president of the Art Association of the Philippines and the Saturday Group of Artists, Mercado is “a reflection of what a true artist should be: passionate in his art, persistent in his vocation; an artist who aims for perfection.”
The retrospective exhibit, which presents a concisely comprehensive chronicle of Mercado’s artistic journey, also serves as the “actual equivalent” of the book, allowing viewers to have a first-hand experience of his artworks, his major styles and its colors, textures, and nuances.
The exhibit will also feature Mercado’s old photographs, art paraphernalia, and a video material for a holistic perspective of his life and his art.
Apolonio says Mercado’s dream-making may have abruptly ended, but through the book and his body of work, extensions of his dreams and vision, his memory will be kept alive by their “sheer power and magic” and the support of his family, followers, and friends.
Gateway Gallery, located at 5/F Gateway Tower, Araneta Center, is open from Monday to Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.“‹